As someone who loves Literature and Music I really wanted to talk about some of my favourite songs inspired by Literature. I have tried to avoid songs written for film soundtracks, but generally I’ve just chosen my favourite so I hope you enjoy this list and maybe discover some great new songs for your playlist!
- Hallelujah- Leonard Cohen (The Bible)
Taking its inspiration from various old testament stories, including the stories of David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah, Hallelujah is a legendary anthem that continues to resonate with audiences. Its endless covers go to show just how timeless this classic song is. I do love this song and I had to include it on this list but it doesn’t rank higher partly because it is just so overplayed and I wanted to spotlight some less well-known songs
- Lothario- City Stereo (Romeo and Juliet)
Speaking of less well-known songs I bring you Salisbury based band, City Stereo, and their Romeo and Juliet inspired song, Lothario. Lothario tells the story of what might have happened had Romeo and Juliet lived, and (Spoiler Alert) Romeo’s infidelity. I wish this band had made it to the big time, because this song has a fantastic narrative and is just generally awesome. I love its modern-day interpretation of the infamous Romeo and Juliet narrative.
- If I Die Young- The Band Perry (The Lady of Shalott)
This country hit was inspired by Tennyson’s bittersweet, romantic poem The Lady of Shalott. Lead Singer Kimberly Perry has referenced her love of Tennyson’s poetry in interviews since the release of the song, and even featured a book of Tennyson’s poems in the music video. I love that The Band Perry’s writing process is so heavily inspired by poetry, partly because I’ve always seen music and lyrics as an evolution of poetry.
- White Horse- Taylor Swift (Fairy tales)
I couldn’t write this list without including Taylor Swift. Originally, I was going to use Love Story but I already included a song inspired by Romeo and Juliet. White Horse isn’t inspired by a specific narrative, but it does take tropes from fairy tales to construct its own narrative. References to princesses and knights on white horses allow the talented songstress to tell a modern-day fairy tale in which the princess refuses to simply be swept off their feet and stands up for herself.
- Not Alone- Darren Criss (Harry Potter)
I had to include something inspired by Harry Potter and I came so close to including A Very Potter Musical’s opening number, Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts. Instead I chose a song from the end of the fan-made musical version, Not Alone. To the unknowing listener this song could easily pass for being just a regular balled, but the song is in fact inspired by Harry’s friends standing by him in his hour of need. This is just a really fantastic song, whether you know about its origins or not.
- Don’t Stand So Close To Me- The Police (Lolita)
This song is about a teacher lusting after a student and references Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita- a book about an older man pursuing underage girls. This song tells the story of an inappropriate relationship and pulls on the themes of temptation and lust that are so prevalent in the source novel. One of The Police’s best songs, in my opinion, and one of many songs which pulls on these themes. The teacher/student love affair has been the focus of many songs, but this particular example is probably one of the best.
- Rocket Man- Elton John (Rocket Man)
One of Elton John’s most well-loved hits Rocket Man, was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name. When I found this out it just made me love the song more because Ray Bradbury ins one of my favourite dystopian writers and I immediately began picking up on references in the song. The story is told from the perspective of a child whose father is an astronaut preparing to go into space. Elton John’s song perfectly sums up the feelings of being distanced from loved ones that is key to Ray Bradbury’s short story.
- Shakespeare- Akala (William Shakespeare)
As a Shakespeare/Hip Hop enthusiast I had to include the song that inspired my dissertation and all further research on the subject. Shakespeare by Akala is not inspired by any individual work of literature but is instead inspired by Shakespeare’s career as a whole. In the song Akala compares himself to the legendary Shakespeare and talks about rap as modern-day poetry. It’s had such an influence on my academic career and will probably continue to inspire me for years to come.
- Love Song For A Vampire- Annie Lennox (Dracula)
Annie Lennox’s fantastic hit Love Song For A Vampire is naturally inspired by one of the most famous works of Vampire fiction. It gives a romantic account of immortality and vampirism that is not necessarily present in Bram Stoker’s original, but very much takes its ideas from his depictions of vampirism. I love this song and I’ve always found it hauntingly beautiful. The song itself has a mesmerizing quality which reflects the hypnotic nature of Bram Stoker’s vampires.
- Wuthering Heights- Kate Bush (Wuthering Heights)
I could not write this list and not reference my all-time favourite literary song. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is actually one of my least favourite novels of all time (sorry for anyone who is a fan) but Kate Bush’s balled of the same title is so good that I can’t not love it! I’m a huge Kate Bush fan anyway, but this song is just so fabulous and dramatic that I don’t think it’s possible not to love it! I will never be an Emily Bronte fan, but Kate Bush manages to save her most famous novel for me.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my favourite literary songs. I’d love to hear if you have any favourite literary songs in the comments for me to listen to! In the meantime, happy listening!